Ron Ory—Someone You Should Know

October 2015 View more

NMAG1015_SYSK_nm ron ory 2_800pxHe’s been described as Naperville’s “Master Gardener.” This past summer, the Naperville Park District honored lifelong Naperville resident and gardener Ron Ory by renaming the Community Garden Plot in his name. The Ron Ory Community Garden Plot is a symbol of Ory’s love and passion for gardening and his years of service to the community.

When did you become interested in gardening?

After I retired from the Army in 1988 after 21 years, I was working for the Naperville Park District at the two golf courses. As an employee of the district, I got a discount to the programs, one of which was renting a Garden Plot. As I began to garden, I soon realized that I knew little about gardening. I had just completed studies at the College of DuPage for an associate degree in Business Computer Programming. Since I still had some benefits under the GI Bill, I enrolled in their Ornamental Horticulture Program. I obtained my second associate degree from COD in 1991. I saw an article about the University of Illinois’ program for Master Gardeners. Figuring I knew something about horticulture, I submitted my application and was accepted for training. I received my certification as a Master Gardener (MG) in 1992. As I began to field questions from homeowners, I soon realized that I knew very little about gardening! I had to research almost every answer to their questions. I put the education to good use because I continued to maintain my own garden plot for the next 25 years.

In 2011, I took over a project that a member of the Naperville Community Gardeners, Ben Calvert, had been doing for about 25 years. He almost single-handedly gardened four plots at the Community Garden Plots, giving the produce to a local food pantry.

In 2013, I also began training as a Master Naturalist (MN), a program similar to the Master Gardener program, with emphasis on using native plants and identifying sustainable and eco-friendly best management practices. When I received my certification as a Master Naturalist in 2013, I became the first person in Naperville to do so. I believe I’m still the only certified MN in Naperville!

What is your favorite item to grow in the garden?

In recent years, as I have learned about native plants, I have grown to like many of the prairie plants that once flourished throughout Illinois. Once established, they require little care and maintenance. One of my favorites is purple coneflower; it has a long blooming season, provides nectar for the bees and butterflies and provides seeds for the gold finches in the winter.

The Garden Plots not only serve as a hobby for garden enthusiasts, but also serve people in need. Tell us about the partnerships with local food banks.

When Ben Calvert was quietly cultivating vegetables on four plots, he had been making donations to Loaves & Fishes. When the MGs took over the project, we continued to make donations. The Park District built a new donation stand near the MGs’ plots, and encourage all gardeners to contribute any extra bounty. The MGs are committed to delivering all contributions to the food pantry. During the four years I led the team of MGs, from 2011 to 2014, we provided Loaves & Fishes with over 10,000 pounds of produce!

What are your thoughts about having the Garden Plots named in your honor?

When the president of the Park Board made the announcement of their intention to rename the Community Garden Plots in my honor, you could have floored me with a feather. I was humbled and grateful for the recognition. I will continue to try to help the users of the plots to become better gardeners. Over the years, they have taught me much, it’s only fitting that I return the favor!

How do you plan to spend your time in retirement?

I retired from the Army in 1988 and from the Park Board in 2015, but I have not retired as a gardener. I will continue to help people learn about gardening as often as I can.

Photo by Robyn Sheldon